Town dives into the world of Tolkien, LeGuin, and Lewis

Only a few of us have put surreal experiences and fantasies down on paper as a means of escaping an all-too-familiar reality. Whether you’ve enjoyed just one fantasy novel or immerse yourself constantly in worlds filled with mythical beasts and enchanted swords, you’ll be pleased to know that this fall Orem is giving numerous fantasy works the attention they deserve.

The Orem Library is presenting its fourth annual Big Read. Fantasy, the genre that has lead to a plethora of books, movies and video games will be the focus of the series from Sept. 21 through Oct. 25 at the library.

“The prevalence of monsters and magic and mystery in our stories still resonates with us today,” said Eliot Wilcox, assistant librarian and Big Read organizer of classic fantasies.

Previously, the Big Read program has focused on one classic literary work. They have included Willa Cather’s My Ántonia, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. However, since 9-year-olds aren’t likely to connect with My Ántonia as easily as teen and adult readers, there was something of a dearth of inclusiveness in the program that the library has been trying fill after its inaugural year.

The 2010 Big Read marks a definite evolution from past years. The library won’t be focusing on one work by one author; they will be exploring different media to present the many fantasy worlds of classic and contemporary fantasy. The expansion of works aims to garner larger participation than previous years.

“We’ve done a lot of other literary books in the past,” Wilcox said of the expansion from individual books to a genre. “We thought it would allow more people to participate. We want many people in the community to come out.”

For those who hate verisimilitude and want to learn about alternate worlds, this will be an invigorating month. A number of fantasy authors are scheduled to participate in discussions.

Brandon Sanderson of the Wheel of Time series kicked-off the Big Read and Brandon Mull, author of the Fablehaven series, are some of the more familiar names speaking about their works and fantasy writing in general. A fantasy writers’ panel along with other local and up-and-coming fantasy writers will present throughout the month as well.

“Since it’s local, it’s kind of them and very generous on their parts that they are willing to come to community events and share work with us,” Wilcox said. “We’ve found that presenters are actually very exited to participate in something that reaches out to the community.”

Other Presenters at Orem Reads will pay attention to a wide range of authors and works read more widely in the past 50 years. The Library will host several lectures about Classic fantasy from the past century, including Ursula Le Guin, Lloyd Alexander, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien’s works.

The lectures will also focus on much older works, going back to the Middle Ages. In addition to Beowulf, BYU English Professor Miranda Wilcox will introduce and discuss the epic of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

The Big Read allows for an expansion of knowledge and fascination regarding not only the individual works, but mythology and society of the time period.

“We’re inviting the community to discover or rediscover classic fantasy works,” Wilcox said of the works featured and lectured about. “When we set up the presenters, we ask them to provide an intro to an author or work. We want [the audience] to learn the context and things that mattered to authors and poets. They begin to understand that what was in those stories is still fascinating today.”

Not only will participants get a chance to interact with authors in person, but they will also be able to observe what life for fantasy authors in years past has entailed. The library will have displays featuring works and lives of various writers, and on Sept. 25 at the Woodbury Art Museum, people were invited to come and make their own book. They literally sewed the spines and covers of what may be the next classic fantasy novel the way people in the Middle Ages did.

The works of fantasy presented aren’t limited to the books either. Wasatch Ballet will perform Lloyd Anderson’s  The Black Cauldron and Resonance Story Theater will take on the roles of King Arthur and his Troubadours, adding to the list of imaginative and  new worlds participants can experience.

“I love how people get excited for the event even when they haven’t been in the library for years,” Wilcox said of the Big Reads’ diverse approaches literature. “They’re excited to learn about books they’ve never read before.”

For a complete schedule of events or to find out more about the authors and lecturers, visit the library, go to or call 801-229-7050.